Posted by Andy on July 9, 2009
Let me start by saying that I like Joe Mauer as much as the next guy. He's the best-hitting catcher in the game and might be the best hitter (period) in the game.
Right now, Mauer's hitting .388 and there's tons of excitement that he might hit .400 for the year. It ain't gonna happen.
First, go check out Sean's post from last year about longest runs to .400. This shows you the deepest into the season players have gotten with a .400 batting average. Mauer's got 224 AB right now and there are 13 guys on that list who went more ABs while maintaining a .400 average. Keep in mind that Mauer's already below .400. Don't even get excited unless he gets to about 275 AB and has raised his average to .400.
Let's take a deeper look at Mauer's career. Here's a plot showing his rolling batting average over each 162-game period of his career.
The red line shows his average over each 162-game period and you can see that he's twice peaked at about .355, including once in early 2007 and once about 2 weeks ago. Notice that while .355 is a fantastic batting average, it's a lot less than .400.
The blue line shows Mauer's batting average over a rolling 54-game window (that's a third of a season.) In this case, he hit a peak of .423 again about 2 weeks ago. While this is impressive, many players have done it over the last 50 years, and none of them have gone on to hit .400 for a season.
Two arguments that do help Mauer's case is that Tony Gwynn did hit .400 over a 162-game period from 1993 to 1995 as well as the fact that Mauer doesn't need to do it over 162 games. He's qualified for the batting title right now, despite having played in only 60 out of Minnesota's 85 games so far this season. At that pace, he needs to hit .400 over only about 115 games. I re-ran my above analysis using a rolling 115-game window and Mauer's peak was .368 coming at that same point about 2 weeks ago. Very nice, yes. Close to .400? Not so much.
By the way, I generated the graph by copying all of Mauer's game logs into Excel and then culling out the hits and AB data.